Schools given priority over social care criminal checks


Social care organisations already badly affected by severe delays
in obtaining criminal checks on new staff, have now been told
schools must take priority, writes David

The deaths of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman and the resulting
charges for college caretaker Ian Huntley and teaching assistant
Maxine Carr prompted the government to insist that all checks must
be done before staff can start work in schools.

Previously ministers had allowed teachers to be employed for
three months without a check being carried out.

The Criminal Records Bureau is tackling a backlog of teacher
checks totalling 12,000, which has to be cleared before the school
term begins next Wednesday (4 September). Many headteachers are
contemplating a delay in the start of the new term while checks are

Extra staff were taken on to cope with the pressure, working
round-the-clock to process checks.

But for local authorities, charities and care homes waiting for
the outcome of checks on their staff it is yet another possible
reason for delay they could do without. New providers and staff
starting a new job have to wait for the all-clear from the CRB
before they can begin working.

Earlier this month a former Coventry council social worker
demanded £1,500 in compensation from the CRB claiming she lost
three weeks’ wages waiting for her check to be done before she
could start a new job with Barnardo’s.

The problems are acute for many new employees and organisations
applying for clearance.

Sheila Scott, chief executive of the National Care Homes
Association, said one check the association requested was still
outstanding after 18 weeks.

The association submits applications to the CRB on behalf of its

She said 32 checks had been outstanding for 12 weeks and 90 for
nine weeks.

“The teachers may have been dealt with, but the number in the
care sector will continue to increase,” she said.

Scott said the CRB’s target of three weeks to process ‘enhanced
disclosures’ (for people with regular direct contact with
vulnerable people) was always misleading anyway because the forms
had to be handled by the association before and after the CRB had
processed it, adding another week to the process.

“I don’t think there are many employees who want to wait four
weeks to take on a job,” she said.

Barnardo’s are also experiencing difficulties, although a
spokesperson was not aware of the situation worsening in recent

National statistics were unavailable, but she said in the
midlands region the charity was waiting an average of eight weeks
for a check to be done, while 12 weeks was the longest time

A spokesperson for the home office, which is responsible for the
CRB, said social care checks were unaffected by the concentration
on the education sector because of the extra staff employed.

“All disclosure applications continue to be processed in the
same way alongside the work on the outstanding teacher
applications,” he said.

David Wright, social services director in Norfolk, who is
leading the Association of Directors of Social Services’ response
to the CRB delays, said the CRB was now confident backlogs would be
cleared by November.

He has been assured by the CRB’s new director John O’Brien that
the delays would be reduced quickly. The CRB has asked Wright to
prioritise applications in terms of client group, and Wright
believes people who will work closely with children should be
checked first.

“It is about managing risk and quite clearly some groups are at
greater risk than others,” he said.

Senior managers should not be a priority, he said, because they
have far less contact with children than people who visit children
in their own homes.

The CRB had admitted that the application forms are too
complicated, he said, and it was committed to simplifying them and
producing guidance. But the social care sector had a responsibility
to ensure the forms were completed accurately to avoid rejection on
the basis that insufficient information was supplied.

Wright believes a combination of factors led the CRB to its
current plight: “It either estimated it (the workload) incorrectly,
or it inadequately resourced it, or it has had problems applying
the new system.”

Whatever the reasons for the crisis at the CRB, the impact is
being felt in social care, where staff recruitment is already a
serious problem. Perhaps headteachers should consider themselves
fortunate that politicians have decided their needs are the current

CRB targets:

Basic and standard disclosures: 95 per cent within one week

Enhanced disclosure: 90 per cent within three weeks

Response to dispute over contents of disclosure: 95 per cent
within one week

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